No Irish Wanted Here

No Irish Wanted Here

I am an Irish laborer, both hearty, stout, and strong,
Idleness I never loved, to our race it won’t belong;
I have still the strength and will to toil, for the wants of life are dear,
But I’m told whenever I ask for work, “No Irish wanted here.”

You may think it a misfortune to be christened Pat or Dan,
But to me it is a blessing to be called an Irishman;
I may live to see the day, it will come, oh, never fear,
When ignorance gives way to sense and you’ll welcome Irish here.

When your country was in danger a few short years ago,
You were not so particular then who would go and fight the foe;
When men were wanted in the ranks to preserve her rights so dear,
Among the bravest of the brave was our Irish volunteers.

Oh, let your hearts be generous, help Paddy from the wall,
For there’s but one God above us who knows and loves us all;
I may live to see the day, it will come, oh, never fear,
When ignorance gives way to sense and you’ll welcome Irish here.

(Click here for a PDF version of the music) * (Play MP3 instrumental)

There is some disagreement in the scholarly community about whether there was actually discrimination against the Irish; few published advertisements actually read “No Irish need apply.” And yet, the Irish immigrants were uneducated and in many cases owned nothing but the clothes on their backs; their simple lack of qualifications would bar them from many jobs. So it seems likely that they felt discriminated against.

The exact origin of this song is uncertain, probably because there are two related versions, which we might call “No Irish Wanted Here” and “No Irish Need Apply.” The latter begins

I’m a dacint boy, just landed from the town of Ballyfad.
I want a situation: yis, I want it mighty bad.
I saw a place advartised. It’s the thing for me, says I;
But the dirty spalpeen ended with, “No Irish need apply.”
Whoo! says I; but that’s an insult — though to get the place I’ll try,
So I wint to see the blaggar with: No Irish need apply.

In this version, Paddy looks up the discriminating employer and beats him until he promises not to reject Irish employees.

English: Vaudeville Showman Tony Pastor

English: Vaudeville Showman Tony Pastor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The earliest printing I have seen of this is from some time before 1880 printed by H. de Marsan of New York. It is said to have been “Written by John F. Poole and sung, with immense success, by the great Comic-Vocalist of the age, Tony Pastor.

Poole was a vaudeville-type writer, noteworthy (according to p. 184 of Spaeth’s History of Popular Music in America) for the Italian-dialect drama The Italian Padrone or Slaves of the Harp, which helped popularize the musical team of Harrigan and Hart. Pastor had a singing career which began in the 1870s but became more famous for a musical theater he opened in 1881.

But this comic version hints at a more serious predecessor, which we might call “No Irish Wanted Here.” That’s this. It must have originated no earlier than 1862, since it refers to Irish soldiers in the Civil War, and it’s probably even more recent than that, but I have not seen early sheet music, nor have I ever seen music for this text.

Source: The words are from Dean. The tune is from Pete Seeger’s version of “No Irish Need Apply.” He says he spliced together two versions in the Library of Congress. These versions do not seem to be in their sheet music collection, so I’m not sure about the tune’s authenticity, but I took the part that appeared closer to this song.

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